To the surprise of few, the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee voted down Republican Tom Emmer and Mary Kiffmeyer’s “Voter Integrity Act of 2009” on Thursday morning by a vote of 11 to 8. The bill would have required residents to show a valid state-issued ID before voting.

A poll taken shortly before November’s election showed statewide support for such a measure at 73 percent. It is therefore no coincidence that the lone DFLer to vote with the GOP, Rep. Philip Sterner (37B-Rosemount), is not simply the only 1st term DFLer on the Committee, but also the DFL Committee member who endured the narrowest margin of victory in the 2008 elections.

Sterner carried his district by a mere 5.2 points last November, while the average margin of victory among the other 11 DFLers on the committee was 35.4 points. In short, Sterner is the most vulnerable DFLer on the State and Local Government Committee in 2010 and he chose to side with the GOP, whose voting bloc on Thursday was more closely aligned with the preferences of the Gopher State.

In fact, if the GOP could have randomly pulled 12 DFL names out of a hat to sit on the Committee, odds are fair to good the legislation would have found the 10 votes necessary to move forward. Although 40 DFLers carried their seat in 2008 by margins of 25 points or less, only 2 sit on the State and Local Government Committee – Sterner and Rep. Jeremy Kalin (17B-North Branch).

While his vote was not needed to quash the bill, Kalin’s opposition is a bold move for a 2-term legislator in an otherwise Republican district. John McCain carried Kalin’s district by 9.7 points and Norm Coleman carried it by 13.8 points over Al Franken in the U.S. Senate contest. Even popular Congressman James Oberstar saw his 35.5-point victory margin nearly cut in half in HD 17B to 18.6 points. District 17B was held by the GOP in 2002 and 2004 – when Kalin lost to Pete Nelson by 8.2 points. Kalin won the rematch against Nelson by just 1.1 points in 2006 and held his seat by 6.6 points over Don Taylor last November.

Coleman also carried Sterner’s district – by 12.6 points – as well as DFLers Rep. Terry Morrow (23A-St. Peter) and Rep. Paul Marquart (09B-Dilworth).

However, as nearly all the DFLers on the Committee happen to represent districts that are the bluest regions of the state, it is little wonder the bill had virtually no chance to get to 10 votes in favor of the legislation:

· Nine of the 12 DFLers on the Committee carried their districts in 2008 by margins larger than 30 points.
· Barack Obama won 8 of these 12 districts by more than 20 points, or at least double his statewide average.

All seven Republicans on the Committee voted for the measure, including Rep. Tim Sanders (51A-Blaine) and Rep. Morrie Lanning (09A-Moorhead), even though their districts voted for Obama by 1.5 and 17.8 points respectively.

Thursday morning’s vote teaches a familiar lesson in legislative politics: it’s not where the people stand, it’s where the legislators sit.

Voter Integrity Act SLG Committee Vote by 2008 Margin of Victory

Representative
District
Vote
Terms
MoV
Frank Hornstein (DFL)
60B
No
4
61.9
Paul Marquart (DFL)
09B
No
5
49.8
Phyllis Kahn (DFL)
59B
No
19
42.1
Steve Simon (DFL)
44A
No
3
37.3
Gene Pelowski (DFL)
31A
No
12
35.6
Ryan Winkler (DFL)
44B
No
2
33.9
Michael Nelson (DFL)
46A
No
4
32.3
Jeanne Poppe (DFL)
27B
No
3
32.1
Bill Hilty (DFL)
08A
No
7
30.4
Terry Morrow (DFL)
23A
No
2
27.3
Jeremy Kalin (DFL)
17B
No
2
6.6
Philip Sterner (DFL)
37B
Yes
1
5.2
Tim Sanders (GOP)
51A
Yes
1
4.6
Steve Gottwalt (GOP)
15A
Yes
2
7.4
Paul Anderson (GOP)
13A
Yes
1
16.8
Morrie Lanning (GOP)
09A
Yes
4
18.5
Tom Emmer (GOP)
19B
Yes
3
21.8
Mark Buesgens (GOP)
35B
Yes
6
26.1
Mary Kiffmeyer (GOP)
16B
Yes
1
27.5

3 Comments

  1. Dan on February 13, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    A very astute analysis. Representatives who’ve been there too long begin to act like rulers instead of representing the interests of the people. They think they are untouchable. It sickens me.



  2. blueJ on March 14, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    The theory here that randomly-selected DFLers would vote for a voter photo ID bill is unproven. So what if a couple of surveys indicate a 70% or so agreement with the concept. If the question is preceded by a few facts, such as there being virtually no voter impersonation at the polls, would the public be in favor of disenfranchising the elderly, frail, and minorities?

    The GOP caucus chose this bill as a high priority, according to Minority Leader Seifert. In a year when the economy is an over-arching concern, a voter ID bill is a high priority for Republicans. Why?

    So one DFLer from a more moderate district voted with the GOP. You can’t generalize and attribute the other No votes to members being from politically safe districts. Not when this bill is especially disliked by Democrats who see it as a way to disenfranchise voters.



  3. Eric Ostermeier on March 14, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    > If the question is preceded by a few facts, such as there being
    > virtually no voter impersonation at the polls, would the public
    > be in favor of disenfranchising the elderly, frail, and minorities?

    You’re correct – if the survey were preceded by a leading statement such as the one you are proposing, it would indeed change the outcome of the poll.

    That’s why pollsters are not supposed to introduce leading statements. Among other things, poll questions are supposed to have a balanced frame.

    Unless, as i guess you are saying, it is a matter of fact that Voter ID would lead to such “disenfranchisement.” Though many Americans (Republicans and otherwise) would certainly take issue with that.